There is no second-guessing fortune or fashion but what is certain is that having plummeted in popularity in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, Beaujolais is now back with a bang, putting Gamay firmly into the fine wine firmament. Although stormy summers saw hail-depleted harvests in 2016 and 2017, qualitatively the recent vintage run has been outstanding with the 2018 harvest delivering good volumes of healthy fruit – to the delight of vignerons who had suffered previous shortfalls. A winning combination of gifted young wine-makers tending mature rootstock has seen a seismic improvement in quality so prices remain highly competitive, especially within the context of Burgundy as a whole. All of which is a rather long-winded way of saying that now is the time to 'fill your boots'.
Based in the medieval hill village of Villié Morgon, Arnaud Aucoeur typifies the new breed of savvy growers making terrific wines at petit prix. His principal cuvée, in terms of volume, is an unimpeachable 'Villages' bottling with wonderful red fruit characteristics offset by a fresh acidity. Redolent of ripe berries and cherries with supple tannins, it drinks well lightly chilled and makes a fine partner to charcuterie or soft, creamy cheeses. At 'Cru' level, Arnaud also makes a magnificent Morgon which has much the same bright fruit quality but more tannic grip so will support richer dishes and longer bottle age. He also produces a relatively rare Beaujolais blanc from pure Chardonnay that has russet apple aromas and a ripe orchard fruit palate with a zesty, clean finish.
In 2014, the astute Graillot family - of Crozes-Hermitage fame - purchased 8 hectares of vineyard in the north of Beaujolais from which they now produce three distinct bottlings under their 'Domaine de Fa' label. A generic Beaujolais-en-Besset has a bouquet of raspberries and redcurrants and a sensuous 'summer pudding' palate supported by fine tannins. It drinks well from release but can be cellared for 3-4 years. A fragrant Fleurie, which accounts for just over half the production, has Victoria plum and violet scents, a core of dark berry fruit, a lively mineral streak and peppery undertones. Completing the range is an elegant Saint-Amour with a wealth of autumnal fruit scents and flavours over a background of soft tannins that will support 5 years bottle age.